Monday, July 14, 2008

Question of the Day: What if the Documentary Hypothesis Were Proven?

Suppose archeologists discover four separate manuscripts dating to the time of Ezra, perfectly corresponding to the J, P, E, and D sources hypothesized by the proponents of the Documentary Hypothesis. The manuscripts are quickly verified as authentic by all the leading experts. What effect, if any, would this have on the Orthodox attrition rate?

This question based on my latest comment at Three Jews, Four Opinions.

34 comments:

Holy Hyrax said...

Ultra-Charedi Judaism would tighten the noose to all outside information. All other sectors of orthodox even your mild charedi would in time (quickly I guess) disappear. Ultra -Charedi Judaism would survive it probably (much like cockroaches surviving a nuclear Armageddon)

asher said...

What if a letter were found in Charles Darwin hand which read "I must confess my writings are a fraud. They are neither scientifically viable nor possible at all. Please disregard everything I have written" and this letter were authenticated at that of Darwin. What effect on athiests world wide would this have?

Jewish Atheist said...

HH: All other sectors of orthodox even your mild charedi would in time (quickly I guess) disappear

No way. I think even MO would remain MO. They'd just "reinterpret" it a bit.


asher:

That's the difference between science and religion. Moses was supposedly a prophet, so without him the Torah falls. Darwin was just a scientist. Without him, the science speaks for itself.

Rabban Gamliel said...

How has the fact that they have not been dug up affected their proponents? Further it wouldn't be enough to show seperate documents conforming to JED and P. It would have to be shown that they arose prior to the finished Torah. It further would have to be shown that their origins conform to the DH theory. Otherwise you will have struck a blow at Orthodoxy but not confirmed DH.

Holy Hyrax said...

>No way. I think even MO would remain MO. They'd just "reinterpret" it a bit.

a bit? Whats there to reintrepret? You really think an MO would commit to halacha?

>What if a letter were found in Charles Darwin hand which read "I must confess my writings are a fraud. They are neither scientifically viable nor possible at all. Please disregard everything I have written" and this letter were authenticated at that of Darwin. What effect on athiests world wide would this have?

It wouldn't do anything, or do you think all research stopped after Darwin died?

Jewish Atheist said...

Rabban Gamliel:

You're completely off-topic. The question is what would happen to the Orthodox attrition rate.

HH:
a bit? Whats there to reintrepret? You really think an MO would commit to halacha?

You really think they believe in the ikkarim now?

factualbasis said...

Suppose that we found a man who has been alive since the giving of the Torah and he said G-d spoke to the Jewish people and gave the entire Torah and oral Torah (like mel brooks) and everything he said was proven to be true? What would happen to everyone else in the world who didn't follow the entire Torah?

Probably the same thing as in your hypothetical. The big time believers in their own faith would deny it to be true despite all the obvious evidence because they cannot give up on their deep rooted (but now proven wrong) view point.

But much like your hypothetical...it will never happen (except after mishiach)

Holy Hyrax said...

Sure, why not? They might stagger a bit, and not beleive a certain one, but the vast majority believe the written torah at least is sinaitic (+maybe some post sinaitic additions)

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Rabban Gamliel:

You're completely off-topic. The question is what would happen to the Orthodox attrition rate."

The point is digging up J E D or P would not by itself prove DH.

CyberKitten said...

Asher said: What if a letter were found in Charles Darwin hand which read "I must confess my writings are a fraud. They are neither scientifically viable nor possible at all. Please disregard everything I have written" and this letter were authenticated at that of Darwin. What effect on athiests world wide would this have?

[laughs] None at all. Darwin might be one of those who started the Evolution ball rolling but his ideas have been *independently* substantiated by thousands of scientists since his time. That's the difference between religion and science.

jewish philosopher said...

The fact other versions of the Torah are never mentioned anywhere means they did not exist.

G said...

Reformed and Conservative would fall off the map, everyone else would figure something out.

--What do you think would happen if a revelation like the one at Har Sinai as portrayed in the Bible took place again?

Jewish Atheist said...

--What do you think would happen if a revelation like the one at Har Sinai as portrayed in the Bible took place again?

Those who witnessed it firsthand would believe. If it coincides with people's existing religious beliefs, then they, too, would believe. The rest of us would have to figure out whether it really happened or not. If it did, I'd believe.

Jewish Atheist said...

The fact other versions of the Torah are never mentioned anywhere means they did not exist.

Several times in the Tanach (OT), it mentions books being "found." Josiah and Ezra come to mind.

Rabban Gamliel said...

It doesn't say other versions of the Torah. It says we have found the book of the Torah. Further in Ezrah where does it say any book was found?

G said...

If it did, I'd believe.

Do you think that is a legitimate possibility for you? Serious question...do you think you have the ability to accept something like that as possible? Or would always contend that there must be an explanation and we just have not found it yet?

Rabban Gamliel said...

"CyberKitten said...
Asher said: What if a letter were found in Charles Darwin hand which read "I must confess my writings are a fraud. They are neither scientifically viable nor possible at all. Please disregard everything I have written" and this letter were authenticated at that of Darwin. What effect on athiests world wide would this have?

[laughs] None at all. Darwin might be one of those who started the Evolution ball rolling but his ideas have been *independently* substantiated by thousands of scientists since his time. That's the difference between religion and science."

And science and philosophy and anything not a science. But science retests everything. The confirmation never is awarded by science but by scientists.

Jewish Atheist said...

RG:

It doesn't say other versions of the Torah. It says we have found the book of the Torah. Further in Ezrah where does it say any book was found?

It's not in Ezra, it's in Nechemia 8. See my post Who Wrote the Bible?


G:

Do you think that is a legitimate possibility for you? Serious question...do you think you have the ability to accept something like that as possible? Or would always contend that there must be an explanation and we just have not found it yet?

If I go to a mountain, and a great booming voice from the sky announces, "ANOCHI HASHEM!" etc., I would first check to see if there is a legitimate possibility that it's a hoax, performed with some sort of speakers or whatever, and then some sort of check that I haven't been drugged or something, but eventually, I think I'd believe my own eyes and ears.

Rabban Gamliel said...

It doesn't say there they discovered a Torah or any book.

G said...

but eventually, I think I'd believe my own eyes and ears.

Fair enough,...any possibility of belief in such an event on your part other than through your own eyes and ears?

Jewish Atheist said...

It doesn't say there they discovered a Torah or any book.

No, not explicitly in Nehemia, although it is explicit in 2 Chronicles. In Nehemia, it merely says that Ezra read the book to the people, and it was all news to them.

And if you want to look outside Tanach, a book called Ezra 4 (a.k.a. 2 Esdras) explicitly has Ezra and his people rewriting the Torah after the original had been consumed in fire.

G said...

For the record, this isn't really leading anywhere and there is no trap question that i'm waiting to spring.

I am just trying to get a better feel for where you stand.

Jewish Atheist said...

g:

Fair enough,...any possibility of belief in such an event on your part other than through your own eyes and ears?

Sure, if enough trustworthy people witness it, I'd probably take their word for it. Just not the word of people thousands of years later who have plainly made up a bunch of other stories as well. (Tower of Babel, talking donkeys, global floods, etc.)

Jewish Atheist said...

g:

I know. I try to keep an open mind and go where the evidence takes me.

Rabban Gamliel said...

say there they discovered a Torah or any book.

No, not explicitly in Nehemia, although it is explicit in 2 Chronicles."

Actually it says there that they said we found the book of the Torah not we found a book called the Torah. The book was known about.

"In Nehemia, it merely says that Ezra read the book to the people, and it was all news to them."

No it doesn't say it was all news to them. They knew about the Torah. They were just relatively ignorant Israelis as opposed to learned Babylonians like Ezra.

"And if you want to look outside Tanach, a book called Ezra 4 (a.k.a. 2 Esdras) explicitly has Ezra and his people rewriting the Torah after the original had been consumed in fire."

Could you be more specific so that I don't have to read the whole book?

Jewish Atheist said...

Actually it says there that they said we found the book of the Torah not we found a book called the Torah. The book was known about.

Splitting hairs, no? Was it the same Torah? A different Torah? The old Torah plus the D source? A completely redacted Torah? Any of those fits the text.

No it doesn't say it was all news to them. They knew about the Torah. They were just relatively ignorant Israelis as opposed to learned Babylonians like Ezra.

14 And they found written in the Law, how that HaShem had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month;

Could you be more specific so that I don't have to read the whole book?

It's in my post. 2 Esdras 14.

God appears to Ezra in a burning bush. Ezra says, the Torah is burnt, so what can we do? Can I write a new one? And God says, yes, grab these people and write for forty days. And they did.

Rabban Gamliel said...

It rather has Ezra rewriting but in the sense of restoring. But that book of Ezra is Apocryphal and also contaminated by Christian interpolations. It is further not from Ezra's period. It also claims that all 24 books of the Tanach he restored so if that's true and you say restoration means a new version you can't then rely on the parts you claim point to a new Torah.

Jewish Atheist said...

RG:

You have to admit, it's pretty interesting from a DH perspective though. Why would somebody 2000 years ago just make up the story of Ezra rewriting the whole Tanach from scratch if there was no truth to the Redactor hypothesis.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Jewish Atheist said...
Actually it says there that they said we found the book of the Torah not we found a book called the Torah. The book was known about.

Splitting hairs, no? Was it the same Torah? A different Torah? The old Torah plus the D source? A completely redacted Torah? Any of those fits the text."

It says they said we have found the book of the Torah. It couldn't be more clear that it was claimed to be the original.

"No it doesn't say it was all news to them. They knew about the Torah. They were just relatively ignorant Israelis as opposed to learned Babylonians like Ezra.

14 And they found written in the Law, how that HaShem had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month;"

When you read material you didn't see before it means you found it in the book or paper. Ezra was teaching them from the Torah if he forged the Torah did he too find new materail he put in? He was in Israel teaching wayward Israelis. look who is splitting hairs.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Jewish Atheist said...
RG:

You have to admit, it's pretty interesting from a DH perspective though. Why would somebody 2000 years ago just make up the story of Ezra rewriting the whole Tanach from scratch if there was no truth to the Redactor hypothesis."

Why not? Ezra is about to be with G-d's son and the people are so wicked all the Tanach has been lost so Ezra tries to save them from condemnation so he writes the books of the Tanach and other books and is told that the other books are to be hidden until the endtimes. This is apocoliptic literature why shouldn't it be so dramatic? What does it prove? Nothing.

Jewish Atheist said...

It says they said we have found the book of the Torah. It couldn't be more clear that it was claimed to be the original.

I agree. But they had no way of knowing if Ezra modified it or indeed created it.

When you read material you didn't see before it means you found it in the book or paper. Ezra was teaching them from the Torah if he forged the Torah did he too find new materail he put in? He was in Israel teaching wayward Israelis. look who is splitting hairs.

It's not that he forged it; he put it together from existing sources. Those people had never heard of succot.

This is apocoliptic literature why shouldn't it be so dramatic? What does it prove? Nothing.

It proves that the central idea of the DH (that there was a redactor) was known or conceived of thousands of years ago.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Jewish Atheist said...
It says they said we have found the book of the Torah. It couldn't be more clear that it was claimed to be the original.

I agree. But they had no way of knowing if Ezra modified it or indeed created it."

It doesn't say that in Ezra. And with Ezra they would have a way of knowing as it wasn't the only Torah scroll.

"When you read material you didn't see before it means you found it in the book or paper. Ezra was teaching them from the Torah if he forged the Torah did he too find new materail he put in? He was in Israel teaching wayward Israelis. look who is splitting hairs.

It's not that he forged it; he put it together from existing sources. Those people had never heard of succot."

Well Jews in Babylon heard of Sukkos. That's where Ezra came from.

"This is apocoliptic literature why shouldn't it be so dramatic? What does it prove? Nothing.

It proves that the central idea of the DH (that there was a redactor) was known or conceived of thousands of years ago."

First of all it doesn't say there was a redacter. Second it was made after the closing of the Tanach which is why it refers to 24 books. If that's the case book 2 Esdras was made after the Biblical period and after the Bible was closed. The book dates back to Roman times as that is when it was decided how many books there should be.

Bruce said...

I think OJ would need to come up with a better theory of revelation. And it would.

The evidence would also be compelling. The DH posits that these sources are parts of the whole Torah. So P contains the first creation story, parts of the flood story, some of Abraham, etc. If we found a source from Ezra's time that contained exactly these portions of the Torah, it would be pretty strong evidence. There would be no reason for an ancient scribe to separate these sources exactly the way modern Bible scholars claim they were separated.

BTW, what would happen to the BT rate into Orthodoxy if someone found a complete Torah from the time of King David (that all scholars accepted as authentic, etc.)

avian30 said...

asher,

What if a letter were found in Charles Darwin hand which read "I must confess my writings are a fraud. They are neither scientifically viable nor possible at all. Please disregard everything I have written" and this letter were authenticated at that of Darwin. What effect on athiests world wide would this have?

Since the evidence for evolution does not rely on Darwin's integrity, this would not be very relevant to whether or not evolution is true.